Updated: 06/27/2017 by Computer Hope

epoch timeSometimes referred to as Epoch time, POSIX time, and Unix time, epoch is an operating system starting point that determines a computers time and date by counting the ticks from the epoch. Below is a listing of different operating systems and their associated tick and epoch.

Operating System Tick Epoch
Apple macOS 1 sec January 1, 1904 to February 6, 2040
Microsoft DOS 1 sec January 1, 1980 to January 1, 2108
Microsoft Windows 100 ns January 1, 1601 to AD 30828
OpenVMS 100 ns November 17, 1858 to AD 31086
POSIX 1 sec January 1, 1970 to January 19, 2038
S/390 244.14 picosec January 1, 1970 to January 19, 2038
Unix 1 sec January 1, 1970 to January 19, 2038

If you want to figure out the difference between two epoch values, do the following. Use the table below to determine how many hours, seconds, days difference there is by subtracting the two epoch values and then dividing by equivalent number of seconds. For example, if the difference between the two was 14,400, dividing that by 3600 shows the difference is 4 hours.

Time period Epoch second equivalent
1 minute 60
1 hour 3600
1 day 86400
1 week 604800
2 weeks 1209600
3 weeks 1814400
1 month 2419200
6 months 14515200
1 year 29030400
1 decade 290304000

Why is an epoch used instead of a date?

Converting a date and time into an epoch value makes it much easier to find the difference, add, and subtract from a time value. For example, you could convert the time to an epoch and subtract it from another epoch value to quickly determine the difference. If the difference was 176,400 and you used the above chart or a math formula to find the difference is 2 days and 1 hour (86400 + 86400 + 3600 = 176,400).

Example of converting an epoch

Many programming languages and some programs have functions that can be used to help convert and epoch. If you have an epoch value that you need to convert you can also use an online epoch converter to convert the values into a readable date.

Julian, Measurement, Operating system terms, Programming terms, Tick, Time